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Children at Aberlour Orphanage were physically, emotionally and sexually abused

Aberlour Orphanage.
Aberlour Orphanage.

Children were subjected to horrendous levels of physical, emotional and sexual assault while at the Aberlour Orphanage in Moray, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has concluded.

One youngster considered suicide after being sexually abused at the institution and others were punched, kicked and beaten with implements including belts, slippers and a table tennis bat.

Children were humiliated for wetting the bed and were force fed after being sick on their plates.

Others were so traumatised by abuse at the hands of those in whose brutal care they found themselves they could barely function when they were present.

The inquiry yesterday published a harrowing account of the appalling treatment handed out at the Moray orphanage before it closed in 1967 and in smaller homes operated by the organisation elsewhere in Scotland.

A 150-page document outlined horrendous cruelty suffered by vulnerable children in the care of the Aberlour Child Care Trust and two other Scottish-based residential institutions – Quarriers in Renfrewshire and Barnardos – between 1921 and 1991.

The document was based on evidence gathered by the inquiry from 110 witnesses including former residents and employees of the institutions between October 2018 and February last year.

Inquiry chairwoman Lady Smith, said: “Children were physically abused, emotionally abused and sexually abused in harsh, rigid regimes.

“Many children did not find the warmth, care and compassionate comfort they needed.

“Scant regard was paid to their dignity.”

She added the children’s lives had already been “blighted” before they went to the homes but, for many, “further damage” had been inflicted on them as result of their time in the institutions.

Lady Smith will use the findings when deciding what recommendations are to be made in her final report.

The inquiry heard that Aberlour housemaster “Captain Henry” abused boys in his care in the 1950s and 60s and formed a lasting relationship with one.

One child, identified during the inquiry as “William”, said he was going to jump off the fire escape after becoming one of his victims.

“I was going to top myself,” the witness said. “It was because of that particular abuse.”

Another housemaster, Eric Lee, abused 10 Aberlour boys between 1961 and 1963 and was jailed for six years after being convicted of 11 serious charges.

One boy remembered being abused when he was between eight and 10-years old.

He was also ordered to stand naked for two hours at night in the dark.

His terror of Lee was such that he could not eat his meals if the housemaster was there.

Children were abused by staff members identified as “Simon” and “Rita” who encouraged “a culture of sexualised behaviour” in their house during the 1960s.

Former Aberlour residents also recalled physical abuse including a child screaming while being given a “leathering” by a member of staff.

Girls were beaten on the bare bottom with a slipper in front of other children. The beatings on bare skin left welts and bruising.

One member of staff regularly made children take their trousers down to be beaten with a table tennis bat.

Bedwetters were beaten.

One Aberlour child was targeted by staff who would wrap his wet sheets around him “like a mummy” before the other children were paraded past him.

One child was force to eat the food on her plate even though she had been sick on it, while a youngster and his brother had to clean toilets with a toothbrush in the 1970s.

Following the publication of Lady Smith’s report yesterday, Aberlour chief executive SallyAnn Kelly said: “We wish to again reiterate our unreserved apology to those who suffered abuse while in the care of Aberlour.

“We recognise the value and importance of this Inquiry and have co-operated fully throughout in the hope that in doing so it will bring some degree of closure to those who have never been afforded the opportunity to tell their story.”

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